Especially for the winners. Neither men's winner Erick Mose of Kenya or women's winner Aleksandra Duliba were aiming to win the 26.2-mile race, which started at Dodger Stadium and finished along the Pacific Ocean, in Santa Monica.
"I was not planning to win this race," Mose said. "I was planning to run my best time. I'm fortunate I won the race. I was not planning on to win because most of the others run a very strong race."
On a cool Sunday morning with a field of 24,000 runners, Mose broke 2 hours, 10 minutes for the first time in his career. He ran a 2:09:44 to lead a Kenyan sweep for the second consecutive year. Fifteen of the past 16 men's race winners have been Kenyans.
Duliba, running her first marathon, set a Belarus national record with a winning time of 2:26:08.
"My ultimate goal was to be in top three and to run a fast time," she said through an interpreter.
The 27-year-old finished 2 minutes, 9 seconds ahead of Mose, earning her the $50,000 bonus for being the first runner, male or female, to cross the finish line first. The elite women had an 18:35 head start on the elite men.
Both runners broke away from their respective packs with six miles to go.
For Mose, 26, it was a six-athlete pack. Only Julius Keter went with him.
Mose, whose previous best time was a minute slower, lost Keter, the grandson of legendary Olympian Kip Keino, with two miles to go with a 4:47 mile split.
"I was thinking then I could run a 2:09, 2:10," he said. "I decided when I got to the 19th mile, I would start going very fast. It was not easy for me to win the race. Both of us are very strong. I was so happy.
Keter finished in 2:10 31 and Nicholas Chelimo, who had the fastest marathon time going into the race, was third in 2:10.43.
Mose and Keter are the best of friends and train together at altitude in Toluca, Mexico. But when Mose made his move, he did not say a word to Keter, who also ran more than a minute faster than his previous best.
"I saw that one of us had a chance to win," Mose said. "I decided to open the gap."
Duliba, trying to earn a spot on the Belarusan team for this summer's World Championships in Moscow, did not graduate to longer races until last year.
During the race, she continually was looking at her hands.
"In my hand I wrote down every split so I would not forget," she said. "I was looking at my hands so I could see the pace I was running. I'm so happy. My dream was to run this time, this pace and run a national record."
She led Zemzem Ahmed of Ethiopia with six miles to go, and despite running alone, improved her pace over the second half of the race by two minutes.
Not even a quick ting of her hamstring, with about two miles to go, slowed her. She ran a 5:09 mile split after feeling the pull.
Ahmed was second in 2:30.32 and Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes was third in 2:32.39.
Kastor, who grew up in Agoura Hills, is the American record-holder in the marathon and was the only Olympic medal-holder in the race. She was never a serious contender. She said she had stomach issues in the first five miles.
By the sixth mile, she was more than 12 seconds off the lead pack's pace.
"I had a sub-par day," Kastor said. "I did not feel very great. My stomach was upset for about six miles. I kept telling myself it was going to pass, it was going to pass, but there was a little too much distance. I tried to stay engaged."
There has been no American winner in either race in 19 years. Nick Arciniaga of Flagstaff, Ariz. was the top American finisher in the men's race, placing seventh in 2:17:05.
Krige Schabort of Cedartown, Ga., took his third consecutive wheelchair race, winning by more than eight minutes. The former South African bettered his own course record by 1 minute, 1 second, going 1:30:50.25. Scott Parsons of San Jose was second in 1:38.05.
The tire off of Schabort's chair came off its rim early in the run.
"I thought, I could fix it, maybe," Schabort said. "I stopped and pulled the tire back on. I was lucky."
Susannah Scaroni of Champaign, Ill won the women's wheelchair race in 1:54:38. Shirley Reilly of Tucson, Ariz. was second in 1:55.10.